ASCR works to get support for change
The Crimson White
By Leah Tollison
Contributing Writer
October 06, 2006

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With the state election just a month away and neither gubernatorial candidate saying much about reforming Alabama's constitution, a group of students on campus wants to change that.
Alabama Students for Constitutional Reform is a group that promotes awareness about constitution reform and is a sister organization to Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform.
"Constitution reform is not just an issue for adults," said Bria Nicole Knapp, secretary of ASCR and a junior majoring in political science. "It is a big deal, and it affects college students. Hopefully this younger generation can keep the issue alive."
Alabama's current constitution was written in 1901 but has been under scrutiny for decades. Alabama's constitution has 773 amendments while the national average is 116, making Alabama's constitution about 12 times longer than the typical state constitution and one of the longest known constitutions in the world.
The state constitution is also plagued with problems like discriminatory language.
"The Alabama constitution is cumbersome on a number of things, but I would like to see the segregation language eradicated," said Michael New, a political science professor.
The main objective for the framers of the 1901 constitution was to disenfranchise black and poor voters, Knapp said. Although federal courts repealed these voting restrictions, they remain written in the constitution.
Efforts were made during the 2004 election to remove the discriminatory language from the constitution but were voted down. However, wording is not the only issue under examination.
The current constitution is written in a manner where towns and counties are unable to make rules and act on local issues. Individual counties have to get legislative approval to build schools, build roads or even change leash laws.
According to ACCR members the state legislature spends 50 percent of its time dealing with local issues, and more than 70 percent of the amendments deal with a single city or county.
"A lot of people don't realize that the 1901 constitution was not the first constitution," Knapp said. "It was changed several times, so it can be changed again."
Knapp said she hopes the constitutional reform issue will make its way to ballots soon, so Alabamians can vote on it.
Voters will not vote for or against the writing of a new constitution unless the issue makes its way through the legislative bodies for approval. The first step in that process is getting voters to sign petitions to lobby for legislative support. ASCR sponsored a table at the SGA Political Awareness Day on Oct. 2 and gathered many signatures in support of their goal.
In February, the state House Constitution and Elections Committee voted 7-7, essentially deadlocking a bill sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, to allow Alabamians to vote this November on forming a constitutional convention to rewrite Alabama's 1901 constitution.
Knapp and College Republicans secretary Hailey Lann both said electing new legislators will further their goal of reforming the constitution in the long run.
"I'm not sure we are to the point yet where we can begin reformation, but hopefully in the upcoming election we will be able to elect officials who will move Alabama closer towards a new state constitution," Lann said.
In addition to setting up an information table at various political events that may take place in the future, ASCR will sponsor a 24-hour reading of the Alabama constitution beginning at 8 a.m. on Oct. 24 in front of Reese Phifer Hall. The group will also travel to Montgomery today to attend the annual ACCR meeting.
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